Coping with the January Blues as we approach Blue Monday
According to pop culture theories, every year, the third Monday of January is known as “Blue Monday”. Well, it’s Blue Monday again, a day which was awarded the “most depressing day of the year”. So, is it really the most depressing day of the year? Is there really a formula to calculate the depressing quotient of a day? No, there isn’t. However, holiday blues are real. Post-Christmas blues are real.
The time of the year from December to January is like a limbo with an array of mind-boggling changes ranging from weather conditions, festive activities, new year resolutions to increased debt levels, low motivation, loneliness, and a whole new year’s work ahead of us.
Even those who love holidays can feel the blues during the busiest days of holidays, whether it is a Monday or Thursday, it does not really matter. Depression does not work this way. It could hit you at any time of the year. Still, winters are different given that people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorders, and it is a well-established fact that weather affects our mood significantly. Additionally, the financial or social pressures of meeting and engaging with toxic relationships that you avoid throughout the year can add extra stress to your mental wellbeing.
People who are already struggling to cope with their mental health conditions will particularly find these days extra daunting and debilitating. According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental health issues reported that their health deteriorates during the holidays.
Knowing is the first step toward healing. Blue Monday is just another day, but this time of the year depressive symptoms can last longer. They can cause us uncomfortable and painful confrontations, reflections, loneliness, stress, and anxiety.
What causes the blues?
These holiday blues if not taken care of, can create a significant dent in our mental health and it could take days to months to come out of this overwhelming fishnet of stressors. There are several reasons for poor mental health during the holidays. Here are the potential causes that make us feel blue around the holiday season:
- Financial difficulties
- Not being able to go home for the holidays, missing your family and friends
- Nostalgia for holidays of the past times
- Poor social support
- Isolation and loneliness
- The strain of dealing with toxic family & relationships
- Unrealistic expectations of making everyone happy
- Anxiety about the future
- Lack of control over usual routine
What does experiencing the blues look like?
Because the holidays mark an upcoming new year, people also tend to reflect on their past year’s experiences, and this is often filled with feelings of regret, failure, and shortcomings. We might begin to ponder about the goals that we had wished to achieve and brood if we failed to meet those expectations.
New year resolutions and peer pressure can also lead to stress, anxiety, and sadness. Pictures of jolly faces flooding the internet and flashy festive banners all around the streets can create unrealistic goals for people. It can pressure people into feeling a particular way, which in turn can act as another stressor.
Here is a brief summary of what experiencing blues may look like:
- Lack of concentration
- Low motivation
- Exhaustion and tiredness
- Feelings of loneliness
- Lack of interest in usual activities
- Sleeping much more or much less than normal
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Overindulging in substances like alcohol, other drugs
- Unhealthy diet
- Unable to make decisions
What happens next?
Unfortunately, people may start using harmful coping mechanisms. Excessive smoking, drinking, binge eating, and a poor sleep cycle are some of the most common coping mechanisms undertaken by people to handle their depression, stress, and anxiety.
However, we must remember that the depression around Blue Monday is not permanent and is considered less severe compared to chronic depression. The symptoms are broader and are likely to vanish after the post-holiday season ends. Suppose you feel that you are experiencing these symptoms even after this time is over, in that case, you must seek help from a mental health professional.
Coping with the blues
There are some things that can help us deal with the depressing thoughts around the holidays. Here are some tips for coping with mental health during this time:
- Limit your consumption of alcohol and other
- Make social connections and try not to isolate yourself
- If possible, exercise daily or practice yoga
- Set and communicate healthy boundaries for yourself and others
It is important we normalise that holidays aren’t meant to be perfect. Remember your holiday time with fondness and remember we need a little bit of everything in moderation, even overindulgence, too.
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